British-Pakistani-American fashion designer famed for Netflix’s makeover series Queer Eye, Tan France in a recent interview with a local media publication opened up about being a queer Pakistani-Muslim and shed light on his love for his home country.
Talking about taking the burden of representation, France said: “I think the pressure on me is a little different – I am the only member of the LGBTQ community, who is also South Asian and very open about the fact that I am Muslim also. And so, I’m a few things in America – I’m an immigrant, I’m Muslim, I’m South Asian and I’m gay – and there hasn’t been anybody like that on TV in the US before, or entertainment in general, so the pressure is really really great. It’s the hardest part of this job without a doubt.”
He continued: “I’m sure you can imagine when you are somebody who is a little different, a lot of Pakistanis don’t appreciate that. There still are a lot of small-minded Pakistani people in and outside of Pakistan, who say ‘we don’t have gay people in our community’, and that’s the most difficult part when there’s nobody else to help you balance it out. When there’s only one person to focus your anger on, you are responsible to make sure you are the ‘perfect’ version of that. That pressure is a lot.”
“The first year of Queer Eye was very difficult, though I’m very grateful for its success. Being on such a massive international show may be lovely for my white castmates because they just get to enjoy the joy of being famous and successful and wealthy and all those things,” said the reality show star further.
“Whereas for me the bigger the show got, the more pressure I got from my own community, to be perfect, to not bring shame onto the community. To not embarrass Pakistan. And that’s not easy, and it doesn’t get any easier,” said Tan, adding that the pressure on his has become less now “because I’ve stopped giving a sh*t, quite honestly, what ‘Uncle Bilal’ thinks of me – but – the bigger my star gets, the more pressure is put on me.”
Later, responding to another question, France said: “The amount of DMs I get through the likes of Instagram, both good and bad where the Pakistani community is saying we don’t have gay people here. Well, that is ridiculous. The other community, the gay community, and the ally community say we need people that show that we exist, that we are not alone, we are not monsters and we deserve love and kindness. The fact that I get those DMs so regularly, makes it clear that things aren’t where they need to be in Pakistan.”
“That’s why people like me are so important in entertainment. If I had people like me on TV, I wouldn’t have felt like a freak, I wouldn’t have felt alone as a child. I think it comes from the top, so laws need to be changed from the top”, said France.
Meanwhile, recalling memories from the last time he visited Pakistan, Tan said: “My favourite memory is my last trip, about 14 years ago when I went to Rawalpindi to design my sister-in-law’s wedding lehenga. My brother was getting married, and our family was to provide the clothes so I was a designer, and I said I want to design it, but I want to go to Pakistan to make it.”
“So, I went with my mom, and we stayed in Rawalpindi with my brother’s wife’s family who also came with us (I’m really close with my sister-in-law) and I had probably one of the best vacations of my life. I helped cook every day and my sister-in-law’s mom, who has never been to England–found it so strange that this boy from England wanted to make gobhi and bhindi every morning with her -and I would teach her to make it my way! She was just so confused that this boy was cooking!”
“It was one of my favourite trips, I loved it so much! The rest of the time I would do whatever I wanted. I could go and explore, I went to a zoo, a theme park in Islamabad, it felt like the most fun trip there,” he shared.
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